I'm heterosexual and my closest friendships have always been with women, but I've always found it curious how some friendships can be as intense (or even more so) than romantic relationships.
In high school, I had a best friend who I was insanely close with. She and I would talk on the phone five times a day and send each other letters and mix tapes in the mail (even though we only lived a couple of miles apart). We went to different high schools and would cut classes to go shopping for used tapes and CDs, or to visit each others' schools. When one of us went on vacation, we'd mourn the separation and make long list of conversation topics to discuss upon return. Though we initially bonded over our shared love for music, eventually our tastes diverted so much that we drifted apart.
In college, I had a bond with a friend that was so strong, it caused jealousy in some of the people around us (in retrospect, we were so much in our own little world that we probably did exclude people without meaning to). We took bartending lessons together (showing up to every lesson hungover), went clubbing together and enjoyed marathon video games sessions. Once, when no one else was home, we dropped acid, laughed for hours and hours on end, and went to the park early in the morning, running through the sprinklers and marveling at how huge the trees were and how strange the people looked. Sadly, drugs lured her a bit too much in the long run and that friendship fizzled, too. The disintegration of our relationship was painful on several levels, knowing that she was doing so much harm to herself and that there was nothing I could do to help.
A couple of years ago, I had a friendship with a girl that was so intense, it was almost like we were dating (except that it never got sexual). We saw each other several times a week and talked on the phone or IMed every day. We grew so used to spending every weekend together that it became unheard of for one of us to attend a party or any other kind of event without the other. We made up a ton of secret phrases and acronyms (hey, not unlike the PUAs!) that only we understood--or anyone we deemed worthy of knowing our codes. This friendship was the equivalent of a passionate fling: all-consuming and meaningful at the time, but quick to burn out. When we were both single, things were fine with us, but when I became romantically involved, her bitterness and cynicism grated on me to the point where we spending time together was too strained. The friendship lasted for less than six months, but ending it was as shocking and hurtful as some break-ups I have endured.
I recently had some conflict with one of my oldest friends, Clarissa. She and I have had the Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger of friendships: periods of closeness marked by periods of tension and/or estrangement. When things were good, they were very very good; when they were bad, they were horrid. Up until the last week or so, they were at their worst, to the point where I thought Clarissa wouldn't invite me to her fall wedding and we'd stop being friends entirely. We had a lot of issues, some of which were valid (I've been avoidant and quick to overreact, she's been a bit too harsh in some contexts) and some of which were misunderstandings (she was under the impression that I lied about her interest in Broody Artist all those years ago in order to hook up with him, which is ridiculous). It took a lot of emailing to smooth things out, but things are finally cool between us again.
Something I've been learning this year, again and again, is how much work it takes to keep a relationship going, whether platonic or romantic. This is something I foolishly took for granted in the past, assuming things would naturally work themselves out, continue running smoothly, and if they didn't, then it wasn't meant to be. That fatalistic attitude paired with a general laziness at maintenance (whether keeping in touch or addressing specific conflicts) has made for some short runs for friends and boyfriends. Not in every case, but enough to realize that if I want to keep the people in my life around for a while, it's going to take some real effort when things get difficult.
Of course, as with romances, some things really aren't meant to be. One good friend lived her life too much on the surface and her poseur attitude and pretension became too much to bear. Another friend revealed herself to be a deeply selfish and self-pitying girl who used everyone around her. Those are not relationships worth nurturing.
But the one with Clarissa is. I'm just glad we both conceded our dumb behavior and worked things out in time for me to attend her wedding later this year. Aside from being one of the most important days of her life, it will also mark something important to me. Ten years ago this September, I met a girl in a semi-dive bar that served to underage college kids and was populated with transvestites. We spent hours chatting by the pool table. I don't remember everything we talked about, but I knew from that first conversation that we'd be friends. We were. We still are.